FFF Racing Team once again showed its class by battling to a podium finish on its International GT Open debut at Circuit Paul Ricard (4-5 June).
The first of two races was held on a warm and sunny afternoon – perfect conditions for racing – and the strength and depth of the International GT Open field was reflected in the quality of the on-track action.
The Roger Dubuis-backed Lamborghini Huracan GT3 of ex-Formula 1 driver Vitantonio Liuzzi and Andrea Caldarelli had been tipped as one to watch in race-trim, after a troubled build-up and an unrepresentative qualifying performance put it sixth on the grid.
Liuzzi was elected to take the start and progressed into fifth position at the expense of Piergiuseppe Perazzini’s Ferrari 488, before handing the reins to Caldarelli at around mid-distance.
Despite a strong run-in to the driver-change, strategies threw the finishing order wide open, but Caldarelli in fifth was quick to close in on and pass Miguel A. de Castro’s Audi R8 while being hurried along by the AF Corse Ferrari, now in the hands of Marco Cioci.
Third was now the immediate target for Caldarelli and his rate of capture was unsurpassed, the gaps from first to second, second to third and third to fourth all diminishing as the race headed towards a dramatic and intriguing grandstand finish.
The leading quartet was covered by less than two seconds entering the final lap, with four cars representing four different manufacturers – BMW, Aston Martin, Lamborghini and Ferrari – duking it out for victory.
It was multi-marque GT racing at its best and, having been four-wide on the final run down the Mistral Straight, Caldarelli scraped through into third position to reach the winners’ rostrum on FFF Racing’s International GT Open debut.
Conditions for race two the following day (Sunday 6 June) were just as idyllic and another charging drive by Caldarelli encompassed yet more edge-of-the-seat battles, but a 20-second success penalty ultimately dashed FFF Racing’s hopes of a second consecutive podium and Liuzzi was simply tasked with bringing the Roger Dubuis and Aurae-liveried Lamborghini home safely in sixth.
FFF Racing Team Owner, Sean Fu Songyang, said: “Reaching the podium at the first time of asking in the International GT Open is a huge achievement that once again shows how competitive FFF Racing Team can be on any platform. Achieving anything was always going to be difficult, as the team had a 15-second pit stop penalty because of Tonio Liuzzi’s and Andrea Caldarelli’s grading in race one, and we then had another 20-second success penalty for race two.
“Ultimately, this weekend was hugely positive. It was used as an opportunity to test the newly-rebuilt Lamborghini Huracan after its crash in the opening round of the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup at Imola, and to test the International GT Open itself. The team is exploring Europe for other opportunities to compete and we found the GT Open to be a very well organised championship with a high-calibre entry, so the aim is to return for another one-off outing later this year.”